Hot Bacon and Blue Cheese Dip

This warm blue cheese dip will be one of your favorite appetizer recipes for entertaining. I can not tell you how insane it is! It is one of those appetizers that you just can’t walk away from. My husband who does not care for blue cheese even liked it. This is a great appetizer that you can put together ahead of time and then toss in the oven a half hour before your guest arrive. Serve with tortilla chips, bread, crackers or cut-up veggies. You can bake it in several small ramekins or a 1-quart dish. Enjoy!

8-10 slices hardwood smoked bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8-oz cream cheese, softened
4-oz. blue cheese crumbles
1/4 C. heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
4 Tbsp. chopped almonds

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook chopped bacon in skillet until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towel and drain oil from skillet, leaving a thin layer of bacon fat in the pan to cook the garlic in. Return bacon to the pan and add garlic; cook until garlic is tender–be careful not to burn it. Drain the garlic and bacon on paper towels.

Beat the softened cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Add heavy cream, blue cheese and chives and beat well. Fold in the bacon-garlic mixture.
In a baking dish, spread the mixture and sprinkle with almonds. Bake in the preheated oven 25-30 minutes, or until dip is melted and bubbly. Serve warm.

Servings: 12 or more

Miso Honey Salmon

Miso is a new ingredient for me to cook with. I watched Tiffani Thiessen on the cooking channel use it in this salmon dish and thought I’d give it a try. I had to do a little research since I had no clue as to what I was looking for. I did have difficulty finding it at first but found it at Whole Foods. Miso Master Organics is the brand I purchased. Miso is made from fermented soybeans and is a thick-like substance. The most common use is for Miso soup, but it adds a unique burst of flavor to salad dressings, sauces and marinades, and vegetable dishes. In this dish, salmon is glazed with a sauce of honey, lime juice, miso, soy sauce and garlic then grilled till flaky. I found this only took around 5 or so minutes for mine so make sure to keep an eye on them. Enjoy!

1/2 C. honey
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. red miso
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (I used coconut aminos)
5 large cloves garlic, grated
2-lbs. salmon fillet, rinsed and patted dry
1 bunch scallions
1 Tbsp. oil of choice
Salt and pepper

Preheat a grill to 350 degrees over medium-low heat. Combine the honey, lime juice, miso, soy sauce and garlic in a small bowl and blend well. Place the salmon on the cedar plank and brush with the sauce to coat. Set the plank on the grill, over and cook until the salmon just flakes with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.

Toss the scallions in the oil and season with salt and pepper. When the salmon has about 5 more minutes to cook, add the scallions to the grill and cook them until charred and softened, Remove the salmon from grill, brush with more sauce and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the charred scallions.

Spiced Pecans

Although delicious anytime of year, spiced nuts are a great addition to your holiday entertaining and make a great hostess gift. There are many arrangements of spices you can use, increase or decrease any of them to suit your taste. Enjoy!

1 egg white
1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 C. raw pecan halves

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Combine the sugar and spices. Set aside. In a bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Slowly whisk in the spices. Toss egg mixture with pecans. Spread on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, gently stirring every 15 minutes or until the meringue is golden. Allow nuts to cool and dry out.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake

If you make no other desert for the holidays, this is it! I shared this with my neighbors and friends and everyone raved about it. What they had left over they ate for breakfast the next day! Two layers of moist pumpkin cake have a layer of spiced cheesecake in between them, with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting topping it all. Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove provide the season’s flavors both in the pumpkin cake and the spiced cheesecake. A tip I found helpful was to make the cheesecake a day ahead of the pumpkin cake since it takes a lot longer to cool. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cake Layers:
3/4 C. unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. oil of choice (I used avocado oil)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg white, room temperature
2-1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1-3/4 C. pumpkin puree

Spiced Cheesecake:
24-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 C. sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
4 large eggs, room temperature

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
16-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. butter, room temperature
8 C. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

To make the cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line the entire inside of a 9 inch cake pan with aluminum foil. Press it into the pan to get it as flat as you can. You’ll use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the pan when it’s baked and cooled.

In a large mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and flour together until combined. Use low-speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sour cream, vanilla extract and spices and mix on low-speed until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Pour the cheesecake batter into the lined cake pan. Place the cake pan inside another larger pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for 30 minutes. Do not open the door or you’ll release the heat.

Crack oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 minutes. This cooling process helps the cheesecake to cool slowly to prevent cracks. Remove cheesecake from oven and chill until firm, 5-6 hours.

To make the cake layers:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and oil and mix until combined. Add eggs and egg white in two batches, mixing until incorporated after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is combined.

Add the dry ingredients to a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter and mix until combined. Add the pumpkin puree to the batter and mix until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure everything is well combined. The batter will be thick.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 23-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes our with a few crumbs. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 3-4 minutes, then remove from pans to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

To make the frosting and build the cake:

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a large mixer bowl and mix until smooth. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and cinnamon and mix until smooth. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the two pumpkin cakes. Place the first layer of cake on a cake plate. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake layer. Use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the cake pan, remove the foil and place the cheesecake on top of the cake. Spread another cup of frosting evenly on top of the cheesecake, then add the second layer of cake on top. Frost the outside of the cake.

Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Cake is best for 3-4 days when frosted and in an airtight container.

Peas with Mushrooms

The holidays are here and you will need a super simple side dish to go with your delicious feast. This is a very simple way to jazz up plain old peas by adding mushrooms, water chestnuts and soy sauce. If you don’t eat soy sauce, I used coconut aminos and salt to taste. Enjoy!

2 C. sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 C. chopped onion
2 Tbsp. butter
2 pkg. (16-oz each) frozen peas, thawed
1 can (8-oz) sliced water chestnuts,
drained & thawed
1/4 C. soy sauce

In a large saucepan, saute the mushrooms and onion in butter. Add the peas, water chestnuts and soy sauce. Cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Yields: 8 servings

Slow-Cooker Baked Apples

This was the first baked apple recipe I had ever tried and I’ve made them over and over so far this fall season. I fell in love with the combo of ingredients that spell fall to me. Crunchy nuts, tart cranberries, sweet raisins and fall spices fill these apples, then they are topped with a buttery sauce. Vanilla ice cream would be an amazing companion served along with fresh whipped topping. For my husband and I, using 5-6 smaller apples with just half of the filling and using the same cook time worked best. The smaller apples were a better serving size. Enjoy!

1/2 C. salted butter, softened
1 C. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 C. chopped toasted pecans
1/2 C. golden raisins
1/2 C. dried cranberries
1 tsp. apple pie spice
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
6 medium firm apples
1 large orange, juiced

Spray a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape bowl. Stir in pecans, raisins, cranberries, pie spice, zest, and ginger.

Cut 1/2 inch off top of apples. Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out core and seeds of apples, making sure not to puncture bottom. Brush inside of apples with orange juice. Fill apples with butter mixture, and place in cooker. In a liquid measuring cup, add remaining orange juice and water as necessary to measure 1/2 cup; pour into cooker around apples. Cover and cook on low until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer apples to a serving platter; keep warm. Pour liquid in cooker into a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until liquid is syrupy and reduced by half. Drizzle onto apples.

Honey-Roasted Carrots

Even though these carrots are a quick dish, I tend to only serve them when the weather is cooler, because they cook at 500 degrees. Nobody wants to be in a hot kitchen in the middle of summer! Baby carrots work great in this dish, but if you can’t find them just halve the larger ones lengthwise like I did this time and they come out great. This would be a great side dish for the up coming holidays, and it is also an easy recipe to cut in half for weeknight dinners. Enjoy!

2-lbs. carrots
2 tsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. bourbon, or apple juice
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. chicken stock or water
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or herb of choice

Place a small roasting pan in oven. Preheat oven and pan to 500 degrees. Stir together olive oil 1 Tbsp. butter in preheated pan. Add carrots, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot; saute 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in bourbon and next 2 ingredients. Return to heat, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes or until mixture is syrupy.

Drizzle syrup over carrots; toss to coat. Bake 5 to 7 more minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender. Transfer to a serving dish, and sprinkle herb.

Servings: 4 to 6

Apple Cream Cheese Swirl Bundt Cake

Though our weather is not paying attention to the calendar, making this cake was a great welcome to the beginning of fall. I shared with friends and neighbors, which lit up my phone with ews and ahs on how amazing this cake is. A sweetened cream cheese filling with orange zest swirled into a batter filled with fall spices, apples and more orange zest, and topped with a confectioners’ sugar glaze. This cake is best eaten at room temperature, so after refrigerating remove prior to serving. Enjoy!

1 (8-oz) pkg. cream cheese
1/2 C. confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 tsp. orange zest

4 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1-1/2 C. unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 C. firmly packed light brown
4 large eggs
3 large Granny Smith apples,
peeled and cored
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange zest

2 C. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 C. whole milk
3 Tbsp. dark corn syrup**

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 15-cup Bundt pan with baking spray with flour.

For swirl: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with a mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, flour, egg, and zest, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

For batter: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Shred apples using the large holes of a box grater. Coarsely chop shredded apples. Add apples, lemon juice, vanilla, and zest to batter, and beat for 1 minute. Gradually add flour mixture to apple mixture, beating just until combined. Spoon half of batter into prepared pan. Spoon swirl mixture onto batter, avoiding edges of pan. Top with remaining batter. Using a knife, pull blade back and forth through batter to swirl layers together. Smooth top of batter.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, about 75 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

For Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth; drizzle onto cooled cake. Refrigerate cake in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

**I substituted with 3 Tbsp. of brown sugar mixed with about 1/2 Tbsp. warm water.

Yields: 1 (10-inch) cake

Seared Cabbage with Lemon and Parmesan

Here’s a different take on cabbage. This is a super quick side dish that is different from any other cabbage dish I have had. Adding lemon zest, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese after a quick saute of cabbage brings a mild flavor and almost creamy texture. It doesn’t take much lemon juice before it is too lemony for my taste, so make sure to add a little and then taste. Enjoy!

2 Tbsp. oil (I used avocado oil)
1/2 lb. cabbage, sliced into ribbons
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Grated Parmesan, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large, heavy saute pan over high heat until smoking. Add the cabbage, spread it out, and sear for 90 seconds, you want it to be browned but not burned. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and lemon zest and stir, cooking for another couple of minutes, until cabbage is wilted but retains some of its crunch. Add lemon juice, a generous handful of Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

How to store ginger root

I now have a YouTube Channel. Check out my first video on how to store ginger root.